Wickliffe’s Ancient Buried City

In the 1930s, “Indian burial grounds” were uncovered as much to turn a buck as tourist attractions as for serious archeology. My parents picked up this postcard on their way through St. Augustine on their honeymoon. (Click on any photo to make it larger.)

Burial grounds found at Fountain of Youth

The back of the post card says the burial site was found when workers were planting orange trees. Another source says the mayor of St. Augustine embraced a grand scheme to “result in making St. Augustine a great laboratory of history, as well as in the fine arts and social democracy, useful not only in understanding more fully how life progresses, but effective because of its objective realism, far more than books and classrooms can be, in educating all classes of citizens in what may be termed `historical mindedness.”

The mayor wasn’t exactly impartial. He was the manager of the Fountain of Youth Gardens (“St. Augustine’s most popular tourist resort, where thousands flock daily during the season to drink of the clear, sweet water, although no pretension is made of its medicinal value and it is doubtful whether Ponce de Leon ever found the miraculous Fountain of Youth except in his dreams.”).

It was his workers who discovered the bones. To his credit, he called in an expert from the Smithsonian Institution to investigate. They discovered hundreds of skeletons “which had been buried under Christian influence, as indicated by the postures with the hands crossed over the breast.” [Insert a note of skepticism here.]

Ancient Buried City

Closer to home was what was called the Ancient Buried City in Wickliffe, Ky. Somewhere in my mess are photos I took of the attraction with my Kodak Tourist II folding camera in 1960, but I couldn’t put my hands on them.

I DID run across these shots from the early 80s, when it was making the transition from a tourist trap to a serious site for research and training. As a kid, I was fascinated by the idea of seeing skeletons. When I got older, I’d look into those empty eye sockets and wonder what they had seen nearly 900 years earlier. What a story those old bones could tell if only they could speak.

Controversial because of sensational advertising

“Amateur and semi-professional excavations first began in the site around 1913 and continued sporadically for several decades. In 1930, Colonel Fain W. King, a businessman from Paducah, Kentucky, began private excavations of the site, intending to turn it into a tourist attraction. In cooperation with his wife, Blanche Busey King, he opened the site for tourists under the name ‘Ancient Buried City.’ The Kings’ venture was highly controversial because they used sensational and misleading advertising, altered the site to make it more visually appealing, and made dubious and exaggerated interpretations of the site. These actions put them directly in opposition to professional archaeologists who studied the site and did not want it disturbed.”

Deeded site to Western Baptist Hospital

The Kings followed some proper archaeological techniques, but their field notes and other records have disappeared. Mrs. King published a book called Under Your Feet in 1939, but much of the material they produced is missing.

The Kings deeded the site to the Western Baptist Hosptial in Paducah when they retired in 1946.  The hospital continued to operate it as a tourism business until 1983. probably about the time I shot these photos. It was donated to Murray State University in 1983, and the Wickliffe Mounds Research Center was established.

No new excavations planned

The Wickliffe Mounds State Historic Site Tour Guide has lots of good information in it. One thing that caught my eye is that no future excavations are planned. “Since excavation destroys the part of the site being studied, modern archaeology justifies excavating only what will produce new information. Archaeological sites are a non-renewable resource. Until the most recent excavations are thoroughly studied, and new questions or techniques can be brought to the study of this site, or if mitigation projects become necessary, Wickliffe Mounds State Historic Site will continue to preserve the site and interpret the latest findings, but will avoid further excavations.”

Another modern change is that the skeletons I photographed in the 60s and the 80s have been removed from display for study and reburial. The Tour Guide says that ten burials have been replicated in plastic, copying as closely as possible their original positions. I can understand the reason for doing that, but I can’t believe that a 12-year-old boy looking at a plastic replica will get the same feeling I got when looking at the bones of an ancient people who had lived on these grounds long before Europeans ever dreamed there was an America. Those were real bones of real people, not a Disney exhibit.

Here’s a link to the Wickliffe Mounds State Historic Site website.





58 Replies to “Wickliffe’s Ancient Buried City”

  1. I drive by the Ancient Buried City coming and going to see my dad in Cape from Florida. I am, as most of the people that know me a real tourist. I usually know where the 13 foot alligators are and have seen them all at least twice. But Ancient Buried City is not one I have seen in my life time and probably will not go, well since it is closed. Just did not want to go. My parents who did go said it was a “tourist trap”, the worse thing my dad and mom could call a road side attraction. I think there were appalled by the outlandish claims of the Ancient Buried City at the site and I guess it rubbed off on me. So South of the Border in South Carolina with its billboards gets a YES in this logic pattern. Ancient Buried City gets a BIG no, if you get the Terry Hopkins logic of that for road city attractions.

    1. Terry,

      The site isn’t closed (although we got there right after closing time when Mr. and Mrs. Spokesrider visited).

      When we took our Great Florida Vacation in 1960, I’m sure we stopped at every roadside historic marker, every tourist trap and museum along the way. And, I have the photos, 8mm movies and souvenirs to prove it.

      In the early 70s and in 1990, a reporter and I went on jaunts to see how many of those places still exist.

      Sad to say, most of the concrete alligator pits, moonshine stills, cars shot up by revenooners and pre-Disney attractions exist only in fading photos and fading memories.

  2. News Paper Story: Cape Girardeau Southeast Missourian, Thursday Evening, March 22, 1934

    Archeologist Tells
    College Students of
    Ancient Buried City

    Kentucky’s Buried City was the subject of Fain W. King, who spoke in Teachers College assembly Wednesday on “The Buried City” near Wickliffe, in a plea for preserving the ancient mounds. fortifications and remains of the aborigines of the Mississippi Valley.

    The site of the ancient city is on an eminence near the junction of America’s two largest rivers, the Mississippi and the Ohio, and no doubt the location influe3nced those mysterious people of unknown centuries ago to select it for their habitation,
    The buried city was discovered just a few years ago and has attracted wide attention from archeologists, geologist and geographers and has been visited by many tourists.
    Outstanding Discovery

    It is the outstanding find relating to the mysterious inhabitants of the part of the Mississippi Valley, who once dwell in great numbers on both sides of the river.

    The speaker, Fain W. King, an amateur archeologist, the first to call attention to the newly found “Buried City,” was instrumental in securing the aid of Dr. Walker B. Jones, of the Alabama Museum of Natural History, to excavate the principal earthworks and thereby uncovering the remains of the buried city. In the excavation of three of the principal mounds there have been found 140 burials with all their artifacts surrounding the skeletons. These embrace pottery, ceremonial spears and other relics of bygone centuries.

    People of Lost Race.

    The burial places represent the people of a lost race, old people, middle aged, infants. It is supposed that one mound will prove to be the burial place of from 500 to 1000 people.

    The second building uncovered shows the outlines of a building with doorways and a drainage ditch outside the four walls. In this place were found evidence of crude furniture, charred corncobs three fireplaces and several pieces of pottery.

    The third mound is called “The Temple Mound,” having been apparently been devoted to religious rites. Ruins of this ancient temple may be seen in this mound.

    Mr. King in his opening remarks, complimented the Teachers College on its Beckwith Collection, which he pronounced one of the best in the United States. This collection came from Missouri in a region just across the river from Wickliffe, where the buried city has been uncovered.

  3. Cape Girardeau Southeast Missourian, Thursday Evening, March 22, 1934

    Finish of Article

    People of Lost Race.
    The burial places represent the people of a lost race, old people, middle aged, infants. It is supposed that one mound will prove to be the burial place of from 500 to 1000 people.
    The second building uncovered shows the outlines of a building with doorways and a drainage ditch outside the four walls. In this place were found evidence of crude furniture, charred corncobs three fireplaces and several pieces of pottery.
    The third mound is called “The Temple Mound,” having been apparently been devoted to religious rites. Ruins of this ancient temple may be seen in this mound. Mr. King in his opening remarks, complimented the Teachers College on its Beckwith Collection, which he pronounced one of the best in the United States. This collection came from Missouri in a region just across the river from Wickliffe, where the buried city has been uncovered.
    Mr. King is interested in the archaeology of the Mississippi Valley and particularly in the full excavation of the Wickliffe mounds which will be of great value to scientists and historians in delving into the mysterious past of those ancient people. He thinks it will require five years of work and cost about $100, 000 to complete the work.

  4. This is a test. I posted comments yesterday and nothing showed up, is this site still functional?

  5. Get a life. If if the only thing you have to do is bash other peoples interest. If you stop and think about it any amusement park you may stop at is a tourist trap as well.

  6. With respect to the reburial > It’s very simple…what if these were the bones of your Mother and Father…..how would you feel and what would you want?

  7. The situation is really quite different from that which you suggest, these human remains are at least 800-900 years old (40 plus generation ago) from a people (Archaeologists call Mississippians) who spoke no modern language in existence today (proto language perhaps of modern ones) and have no written records. Archaeology tries to tell the story of common average people that we have no other way to learn about their history. Are you against archaeology in general principle? What a loss that would be.

  8. Terry, it says something rather stange and sad about someone who would call something a tourisat trap who has never been to see it for themselves and says a big no on ever wanting to see it. It’s possible your parents never really saw it either (how would you really know they didn’t just made that up to keep you from asking about going), and thus you have formed an opion clearly on heresay and probably on totally false information. Your logic sounds idential to the guy (true story) who went to see Mammoth Cave, also in Kentucky, and came back saying it was just a hole in the ground, true from a narrow perspective but so totally ignorant. Unless it was NASCAR, football or wrestling he really would not have been interested. Terry, ABC appeals to those who are local history buffs, love Native Americans artifacts, and archaeology in general. Terry you obviously don’t find anything interesting about any of that stuff, really? Probably should just stick to watching TV at least you can change the channel if you don’t like it.

  9. Wickliffe Mounds is listed on the National Register of Historic Places (2004), it is also a Kentucky Archeological Landmark and became the 11th State Historic Site, see Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wickliffe_Mounds if you doubt I am telling the truth.

    Terry Hopkins, apparently you have been misinformed about the site. I don’t think tourist traps (your word) get these designations and honors, at least none that I have heard of or seen. This one had the state of Kentucky take it over as a tourist
    attraction (State Historic Site), that should tell you something.

  10. Terry, how could you know that some could be so sensitive. Mom’s side of the family gathered in Branson for her sister’s birthday. The Titanic is one of the newer attractions there. I quized a few locals about taking the mob to see it and “Spent hours there and didn’t see it all so I’m anxious to go back and see the rest” And “Tourist trap” both came up. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder fits perfectly. As many times as I have been past “The Buried City” I too have never stopped and to some degree because of so-so comments from some that have. I don’t get too excited about the Ghiza Pyramids and mummies either. I’m glad you were able to spend your time and money on things you were more interested in.

    1. We always called it a tourist trap, too. Trust me, we KNEW tourist traps. When we drove from MO to FL in 1960, we saw every alligator in a concrete pit; every moonshine still; every cheesy exhibit that had cartoon characters and every historical marker for 1,200 miles (and back).

      What it is today isn’t what it was when I was a kid (back when the Indians who built the mounds still lived on them). Although I have to admit that seeing real skeletons was a lot cooler than looking at the plastic ones that are there today.

      Poor TerryL first somebody totals his beloved car with him in it, then his fresh bruises get blackened again for his comment.

  11. Ken and Terry don’t you think your use of “Tourist Trap” is a little too opinionated or personally biased rather than an objective evaluation that say an average tourist/visitor would make? My mother-in-law (true story) went to see the Grand Canyon and came back and said she did not see why people got so excited about that place kinda like the fellow that said Mammoth Cave was just a hole in the ground, but that doesn’t detract from the interest, enjoyment of maybe just amusement that thousands of other people had in seeing those famous places and always will. Tourist Trap has such a negative connotation to suggest to others not to waste their time or money to go see it. Is that what you really meant about the Wickliffe Mounds? I doubt that the many thousands who have seen it each year would agree with you, I think you have a rather biased minority opinion like my mother-in-law about the Grand Canyon. Don’t get me wrong, I support your right to your opinion, but I think most people would probably disagree with it.

    1. As somebody whose family stopped at every roadside moonshine still, kid attraction, alligator in a cement pit and roadside historical marker, I’m pretty qualified to define “tourist trap.”

      I think my description of the ’60 version of the Buried City is accurate: “I DID run across these shots from the early 80s, when it was making the transition from a tourist trap to a serious site for research and training.”

      A tourist trap, by my definition is one that encourages you to part with your money and results in “Hey, Maude, would you look at THAT,” as opposed to serious scientific discovery or edification.

      As far as the Grand Canyon, it’s just gorges.

  12. Using your logic is like someone who would say; Cape Girardeau is a “hick town”. I know “hick towns”, my family and I have traveled thru many of them all over the south. So we really knew one when we saw it. Regardless of whether it’s right or wrong it’s an ignorant thing to say, most people who know Cape Girardeau would consider that offensive, that’s my point.

    I have talked to many people who were widely traveled who thought the Wickliffe Mounds were a unique, interesting place, particularly in the 1950s-60s when there were very few archaeological sites open to the public and many typically had only a handful of real Indian artifacts in minimalistic displays. Wickliffe showed you lots of the real stuff (artifacts, about 200,000 and archaeological features) something we took for granted then. Museums today have locked it all way, and have stereotyped modern displays with few artifacts to show, archaeological features forget it they are all fake replicas. I am so glad I got to see the Wickliffe stuff before the modern professional museum people took over, museums are deadly dull today by comparison, and seeing things in person is all too often hardly worth the trip. Believe me that’s not the way it use to be. Wickliffe had a lot of unique things to see, but not anymore, now it’s a “modern” museum. I guess you really just don’t know what you missed, certainly the current public won’t know either.

    1. I use the term “tourist trap” in an affectionate way. When I was 12, we visited Ripley’s Believe It or Not Museum in St. Augustine, FL. It was a tourist trap.

      On the other hand, it was a treasure trove of trivia. You could open drawers and root around in the most amazing things. When they started opening Believe It or Not museums all over the country, they parceled out the treasures, causing the magic to leak out. Sort of like when you go into chain restaurants that have “antiques” on the walls and suspended from the ceiling.

      Cape would be, to many people, a “hick town.” It’s MY hick town, though, and I appreciate all its foibles. That should be obvious from the 985 posts I’ve made about it.

      As I pointed out in my piece, the real skeletons that were there when I was a kid have been replaced by plastic replicas. Does that make it more or less of a tourist trap in your estimation?

      I’m trying to figure out if you’ve characterized me as ignorant and offensive, or just my comments. I won’t lose any sleep over it either way.

  13. I could claim ignorance and offensive were meant in an affectionate way. We all are just suppose to overlook ignorant and offensive comments, this is the age when we must all learn to make excuses for ignorant comments. So how about just mean what you say and say what you mean.

    Terry, who you quickly took up for said he would never go to ABC because it was a tourist trap that’s what a negative stereotype does. That’s ignorant.

    Why can’t you just say maybe I misspoke rather that repeat or take up for an offensive ignorant comment?

    Of course I don’t know you but if you are the guy I hope you are, you will Man Up and do the right thing! Admit you used a negative stereotype that other people might see completely different. Do that simple thing, and you will have my respect. We all needto be a lot more willing to correct our mistakes, to err is human to forgive … you know the rest.

    1. I made my living using words and photos, so I use them deliberately and carefully (typos excluded).

      You see offense where none was intended. Trust me, if I HAD meant to offend, we wouldn’t be quibbling over semantics.

      Frankly, sir, I don’t care if I have your respect or not. I have no trouble looking myself in the mirror. You are welcome to your opinion; I am welcome to disregard it.

  14. You are correct Chris, and thanks for calling this to my attention…I did misspeak; I meant to say “Tourist Crap”. I do commend you for calling this to gently my attention. As for Ken and Dickie, they are on their own. I am stuck in the “Hick Town” of Cape Girardeau with my 89 year old dad watching the western channel all day. You know they do not even have good gentleman’s Club here. I have to drive across the river!
    And…Crap my typewriter ink is running out…I have to change the ribbon, otherwise I would apologize even more.

  15. Ken your comments about tourist traps (including Wickliffe) were “chessy” your word, not mine. Does that mean there are a lot of holes in what you say? Seems like maybe you got that right. Just joking.

    We do both agree the real stuff was a whole lot more interesting than the fake replicas. I think we also agree we used to see a lot more of the real stuff until recently and that is a shame we have lost the feel of the authentic, It makes TV seem like the real thing. Would you agree?

    1. Actually, I used the word “cheesy,” not “chessy,” but I get your meaning and accept your joking.

      Looks like we’ve hit some common ground.

      Most of what I would have considered “tourist traps” disappeared with the advent of television and large commercial theme parks like Disney. You don’t find Six Gun Territory in Ocala or the fake moonshine stills alongside the road in Georgia or little model villages of nursery rhyme characters like you did in the 40s to the 60s.

      Silver Springs is still around, but Cypress Gardens and Weeki Wachee Springs were almost swallowed up by developers when the tourist business started drying up.

      In 1990, I did a story tracing U.S. 27 from Little Havana in Miami to Havana, FL, on the Georgia border to see how many of the tourist attractions (a less loaded word) I could find that we saw on a family vacation trip in 1960. Only less than a handful survived, and their days were numbered.

      Blame it on airline travel, Interstate highways, a more sophisticated audience (questionable) or some combination of the above, but the roadside attractions – both good and bad – aren’t there today.

      I AM curious about one thing. I appear to have struck a nerve with my comments about the Buried City. Do you have a connection with it?

  16. I am from Western Kentucky if you call that a connection. My family took out of town guests including Doctors from Chicago who had see the ruins in China and Mexico to see Wickliffe in the 1960s and they were impressed with Wickliffe. While in the Boy Scouts I got a chance to see Wickliffe several times and I always learned something new about the place every time I went, cheesy it was not. Our Scout Leaders didn’t think so. Granted what maybe fascinating to one person might be boring to someone else. I am aware of the fact that some people called it controversial because that called it an Ancient Buried City but the answer the guides gave that it functioned as a city made sense and thecommunitydated to the time of Cahokia, the big prehistory City at St. Louis. So I don’t really understand what people thought was controversial? It certainly wasn’t the dating of the site. All the explanations I heard the guide referred to ethnographic analogies with the historic Indian groups and how they lived and made artifacts. So what is Cheesy or controversial about that? The Boy Scout in me says tell the truth, that’s what I am reacting too.

    1. Thanks for the clarification. It’s always interesting to find out what made an impression on us when we were kids. At the time you were becoming enamored with Wickliffe, I was entranced by the Edison Home and Museum in Ft. Meyers, FL. When my wife and I moved to the state in the early 1970s, that was one of the first places we visited. I still find it fascinating.

      I can’t drive by Cairo without making a pause at Ft. Defiance to see the Mississippi and Ohio Rivers converge (unless it’s flooding). I’m drawn to Tower Rock in Perry County and to Trail of Tears in Cape County.

      Speaking of differences in opinions, Dad was a road builder who spent most of his times cutting roads through places LIKE Trail of Tears. He was never impressed with it; it was just another day at the office for him.

      Like you, I have a list of places I take visitors when I’m in Cape at the same time as them. I stopped in Wickliffe with these folks because they are interested in Native American history, but the place was closed.

  17. Something else for you to consider about Wickliffe, is the copy-cat places that developed similar Indian Mound Village archaeology displays because of the success of Wickliffe with the tourist public. For example in Memphis Tenn. the Chucalissia site and Town Creek in North Carolina are direct spin offs or copy-cats of the Wickliffe Mounds exhibit excavations and both Tenn. and N.C. state parks charged admission similar to the price at Wickliffe which was privately owned until 1980s. The men that started those copy-cats had both visited Wickliffe while Univ. Of Chicago Students working at the Kincaid mounds across from Paducah in Ill. and saw the success it had with the public and convinced their states to fund similar tourist attractions. Not bad for a cheesy tourist trap (your words) to get obviously copied and then show cased by the bordering states. Dickson Mds (started in the 1920s), had a burial mound (yep saw that too)it was started earlier than Wicklliffe but that single mound was all you saw, not a village. I also saw the Ripleys Believe or Not (I had read his books and remember the regular newspaper serial) in St. Augistine FLA. and the Fouuntain of Youth Park too that had a burial exhibit (actually the post card at the top of the messages that you see) I saw that and thought it too was copied or directly influenced by Wickliffe and the earlier Dixon Mound. I wouldn’t call any of these archaeological excavations cheesy tourist traps, tourist attrations that had educational exhibits, and most were artifact museums, is the more accurate less biased and deragotory description. I am thinking Wickliffe remained more of a primitive unique original because it remained in private hands the longest and wasn’t professionalized to look cookie cutter like the rest with almost formula driven exhibits and stories that told the bare minimum story and showed the minimum number of artifacts about the local place. Quite litterly most of these modern places can be included in a 20 minute powerpoint and show you almost everything you would see if you actually visited the site in person. Call me old fashion, but museums were a lot more unique and intersting and I doubt I am the only one that thinks this. Modern professionally done does not always mean better. All too often it means more efficient use of material and labor and cheaper done, lacking quantity and quality. We don’t seem to be getting our moneys worth in modern srinking museum displays, of course blamed on budget cuts no doubt like everything else. Are you with me on that?

  18. I got the info I mentioned in the previous post from a free dowloaded poster from the Wickliffe Mounds Park internet site a couple of years ago. Don’t see or can’t find the same poster online anymore, but information or text on the back of the poster does give quite a different perspective about the history of the Wickliffe Mounds. If I could upload a picture of the front of the poster this would make more sense (don’t know how to do that) but the text is fairly self explantory. Gives reason to think how misguided the use of cheesy tourist trap really is for this place. You can’t really think it’s in the same category as alligator pits or moonshine stills, gross ignorance is no longer a valid excuse. Here goes the cut and paste:

    “It’s Never Too Late To Discover America”

    One of the early published articles about the Wickliffe Mounds excavation was entitled: KENTUCKY’S “ANCIENT BURIED CITY” by T. M. N. Lewis and appeared in the Wisconsin Archeologist Volume 13 No. 2 pages 25-31 (1934). Lewis, a World War I Navy veteran and Princeton graduate, had witnessed the Wickliffe excavation in progress and his job was to restore most of the broken pottery found in the mounds [P8]. The excerpt in the following paragraphs from Lewis’s article gives his first hand insight into what was revealed in the Temple Mound “A” excavation. The written publicity, flier and brochure, interpreting the new Wickliffe excavations were jointly authored by Thomas M. N. Lewis and Fain W. King. Both Lewis, in the Wisconsin Archeologist, and King, in the Tenn. Academy of Science (IX No1. 8-17), separately authored journal articles published in 1934 about the Wickliffe excavations. Thomas McDowell Nelson Lewis in late 1933 was hired by William S. Webb to be the field supervisor of the archaeological reservoir, Norris Basin projects, for the Tennessee Valley Authority in Tennessee, see Grit-Tempered: Early Women Archaeologists in the Southeastern United States (2001) by Nancy Marie White (Ed.), Lynne P. Sullivan (Ed.), Rochelle A. Marrinan (Ed.). When that field work was completed Lewis was hired (September 1934) as Associate Professor in archaeology at the University of Tennessee charged with supervising the archaeological work in that
    state until his retirement in 1961. The few words in brackets and the photo numbers were added by the author. The introduction of the Wickliffe site and the detailed description of the Temple Mound remain in Lewis’s own words and give insight into how the direct historical approach, using ethno historical
    accounts, were used in the archaeological interpretations of Wickliffe. Nearly everything found at Wickliffe, artifacts and features, were readily explained by
    Lewis and King by ethnographic analogy to historical Native American practices.

    “Situated at the confluence of the Mississippi and Ohio Rivers is the little village of Wickliffe, KY. Here, in the late summer and fall of 1932, a staff of archeologists excavated portions of a prehistoric village site which has since become known to the public as the “Ancient Buried City”. Obviously the term “city” is a misnomer in so far as modern standards are concerned. Comparatively speaking, however, this aboriginal village probably maintained as influential a role in those prehistoric days as do any of our modern cities of 100,000 population. That the site was not merely a temporary abiding place for some nomadic tribe is assumed from the fact that the camp refuse extends to a depth of from three to five feet over the entire site. The abnormally high bluff at this location afforded a point of vantage from which it was possible to survey a great expanse of land and water. This was a topographical feature seldom overlooked by the Ancients in their quest of permanent sites for habitation. In the summer of 1932, Fain W. King of Paducah, Ky., an amateur archeologist, investigated the site. The interesting nature of the earthworks and the apparent long period during which the site had been occupied, as determined by numerous test pits which were made, prompted him, as a member of the Board of Regents of the Alabama Museum Of Natural History, to solicit the aid of Dr. Walter B. Jones and his staff. (David Dejarnete was the Crew Boss) To shelter the excavators from the weather a circus tent was pitched over that portion of the site which was staked out for excavation. The work continued incessantly seven days a week until the approach of winter. All remains were left in situ with the exception of that portion of the pottery which was encountered in a broken condition and which was later replaced in original positions after restoration. In all, excavations were made in three mounds… A description of the evidence thus far uncovered follows…

    …In another mound located at the edge of the bluff a large, rectangular excavation was made [P3]. Five feet below the top a hard clay floor was encountered. [P2,P3] This was covered with the charred remains of a burnt structure [P2]. These remains consisted of portions of the thatched roof with its supporting timbers and the fallen timbers which once formed the walls. When the charred material was removed, three rectangular, convex ceremonial altars were exposed, indicating that in all probability this burnt structure had served as a temple building [P9]. These altars are of burnt clay and are all three in juxtaposition. Between two of the altars are seen two post molds [P9]. A charred post lying on the floor adjacent to one of these molds had secured to it a braided rope about a half inch in diameter. Parallel to these altars, at a distance of four feet, is a row of post molds indicating what may have been the front wall of the building [P9]. Another row of molds may be seen immediately in front of the altars and parallel to the wall [P9]. These molds may have held the upright supports for a rail before which the suppliants knelt and offered their sacrifices as they filed into the temple.

    In as much as the number three was not held to be of any particular significance by primitive American peoples, we are inclined to believe that further excavation will reveal a fourth altar in as much as the number four is known to have had some mysterious interpretation. [4 cardinal directions, 4 corners of the Earth, 4 winds, Cahokia mirrored the cosmos with a large mound surrounded by 4 plazas, the Cahokia site layout mirrored their beliefs in a four part earth ,horizontal vectors, balanced between the sky, earth, and underworld, vertical vectors] Perhaps each one of these altars [P9] was dedicated to the worship of some one deity; on them burnt offerings were made according to the religious custom of many ancient peoples. These offerings may have consisted of food, tobacco, clothing, articles of adornment and even living animal sacrifices bound to the altar by means of the above mentioned rope. These rituals may have been conducted by a priest or shaman. The objects for which offerings were made were as manifold as the desires of the supplicants.

    Since this floor was encountered at a depth of but five feet below the top of the mound [P2], the excavators reasoned that additional remains would be found beneath. Accordingly a section of this floor of hard clay was removed and the excavation continued to a depth of five more feet. [P2,P3] Here again a hard clay floor was encountered completely covered with the charred remains of another burnt structure. [P5,P6] As in the case of the superimposed structure, the excavators encountered an uneven layer of burnt clay resting upon the charred timbers. This burnt clay does not appear to have been wattling which had been applied to the walls of the structure, but rather appears to have been loose clay which was dumped upon the collapsed timbers while they were still aflame. The fact that sections of the thatched roofs of both structures were found in a good state of preservation would seem to indicate that the roof had been reinforced with wattling at the time it was constructed. The presence of this clay wattling prevented the thatching from being entirely consumed before the building collapsed. Further evidence in support of this latter deduction was the discovery of some of this wattle work in close association to the thatching. The heaping on of clay immediately following the collapse of the structure smothered the burning timbers and converted the mass into charcoal, thus making it possible to offer these interpretations [P5]. It seems probable that the lower structure was burnt intentionally. Had it been an accidental burning, one would assume that they would have removed the ashes and rebuilt the structure. On the contrary, a mound of clay five feet in height was thrown up over the remains. [Robert McCormick Adams said of the lower structure, “It is one of the best preserved structures from the Mississippi Valley ” , Hobbies Magazine (August 1937:96-98).] Now if we have read the evidence correctly, we are obliged to assume that the burning was premeditated. Just exactly what the motive was is impossible to say. A fire pit, which may have contained a perpetual fire, [P4] was found just beyond the wall of both structures. In Central America perpetual fires were renewed every fifty-two years. Some similar rite may have been practiced here accompanied by the burning of their temple. Other Indian tribes had the custom of burning the dwelling of the deceased. Perhaps here this was done to destroy the evil spirit which had caused the death of their priest or shaman. Still another motive may have been their eagerness to placate an angered god who had invoked some catastrophe upon them.

    When every remnant of the lower structure had been covered to a depth of five feet, these people again reconstructed their temple immediately, or nearly so, over their former one. Here again is mute evidence of a deliberate burning, [P2] and again the remains were covered to a depth of five feet [P3]. No evidence was found on the top of this mound in the nature of post molds that a third temple was erected. Possibly upon completing this earthwork the populace decided to erect mounds over their more important structures and evacuate the site in order to flee from some curse which they’ believed hung over them.

    It is to be understood, of course, that such deductions as herein rendered are purely imaginative, but at the same time they are offered in the light of recordings [Natchez eye- witness accounts] made by early historians who observed the odd religious fantasies practiced by the descendants of these earlier people. We do not wish to appear to have been bred in the school of exaggeration. Our imagination has been employed in an effort to fill in the gaps of what might be otherwise regarded by some as a rather meaningless record of prehistoric vid nce ”

    Paul Runyon in a March 23, 1934 Lexington Leader newspaper article said the walls of the Wickliffe mounds had been razor blade sliced with such care that light and dark colorations gave a vivid cross-section of the individual basket loads of dirt [P4] as they were dumped to build a mound to its peak. Fain King (Journal Tenn. Academy Of Science 1934:16) estimated that basket loads of dirt observed in the mound walls ranged from 30 to 35 pounds per basket [P4]. Blanche Busey King, Fain W. King second wife, (Under Your Feet, 1939:36) estimated that 12,000 cubic feet of dirt was taken from the Temple Mound excavation and the mound was only one-twentieth excavated [P3]. The lower burned structure [P5] has a radiocarbon (C14) date of circa
    1218 AD and the mid level structure [P2] of about 1279 AD, Barry Lewis (Ed.) (Miss. Towns Of The W. KY. Border:, 1986). The Wickliffe Mound community flourished (1100-1350 AD) during the heyday of Cahokia (950-1350 AD), see Kit Wesler, (Excavations at Wickliffe Mounds, 2001).

    In addition to the 200,000 cataloged artifacts from the six excavated mounds labeled A thru F on display at Wickliffe in the 1940s, Fain W. King displayed his own collection of 10,000 prehistoric artifacts that he had collected over a 40 year span, mostly from Kentucky and the surrounding states. Fluorite and fluorescent mineral collections (shown under an ultraviolet light) King displayed in a separate building. A fossil paleontology collection of 12,000 specimens (many found in Kentucky) were also on display at Wickliffe in the 1940s. The Wickliffe “King Mounds” from day one were promoted by Fain W. King as both a scientific and educational exhibit, a working archaeological laboratory was part of the tour where artifacts were analyzed, cataloged, and restored, and the main attraction was the series of excavated mounds that showcased in situ archaeological features, burials, fire pits, hearths, house patterns, postmolds, mound stratigraphy, midden and basket loading that were all daily explained to tourists and academians alike. Professional and amateur archaeologists, school groups, Scouts and children of all ages frequently toured the Wickliffe Mounds (and still do) fulfilling Fain W. King’s dream of an archaeological site museum that revealed what he referred to as “a cross-section of prehistoric Native American life” (personal communication Superintendent George L. Johnson) that could be both easily understood and appreciated by the common man. Just as the Dixon burial mound exhibit in Illinois inspired the Wickliffe burial Mound “C” exhibit, Wickliffe served as a model for the archaeological prehistoric town exhibits with similar excavations at the Chucalissa site in Tennessee by Charles H. Nash and the Town Creek site exhibited by Joffrey Coe in North Carolina. Both men had visited the Wickliffe Mounds as students of Fay-Cooper Cole’s, University of Chicago field school, while excavating the Kincaid Mounds in Illinois. A generation of American archaeologists and interested students came to see Fain W. King’s “Ancient Buried City”. King used the tag line, that appears at the bottom on the front of this poster, “It’s Never Too Late To Discover America” in both his flyers and brochures advertising the King Mounds. The brochure and signs said “Come To The Ancient Buried City, America’s Great Wonder Excavation”, “A Revelation Of Prehistoric Man and His Works”. Blanche King said in the brochure and her book (Under Your Feet ,
    1939) , “I look at them in their dignity, surrounded by simple amulets, tools and weapons and am reminded of these lines from a beautiful poem: I have spread my dreams under your feet; Tread softly because you tread on my dreams.”

    To cut grounds keeping costs during World War I, First Lady Edith Wilson brought a flock of 18 sheep to graze on the White House lawns in order to save the manpower (free gardeners for military service) required to mow the expansive grounds. Wool from the sheep was regularly sold as a fundraiser for the Red Cross. Newlyweds, Fain W. King and his first wife Lulu Reed King, lived and worked in Washington D.C. during that time and knew firsthand the story about the White House sheep. King, followed the White House example by bringing a flock of sheep to maintain the lawns at the Wickliffe Mounds [P1]. The picture of the sheep on the temple mound was used in the early brochure about the mound excavations. In December 1934 the
    Kentucky Ornithological Society announced the establishment of the “A. B. C. King–Bird Refuge” in newspaper stories. [P7] “Everything will be done to make this a bird city, nesting boxes and feeding stations will be erected at intervals over the refuge…”. Fain W. King was quoted as saying “A child’s memories should gleam with the beauties of flowers and skies and thrill with the remembered songs of birds. The one who can not look back to a childhood in which birds sang and nested has been denied a birthright…”. The included Temple Building photo [P7] shows a Purple Martin box on the southern peak of the building roof. All photos are from the Blanche Busey King photograph collection, poster and description by Frank M. Bodkin, © 2009, fmbodkin@insightbb.com. To learn more, please visit the Wickliffe Mounds State Historic Site, 94 Green Street, Wickliffe KY 42087, 270-335-3681 or on the web site (http://parks.ky.gov/findparks/histparks/wm/).

    1. Chris, I’m in the middle of editing a video on deadline, so I don’t have time for a response anywhere as lengthy as yours, but the guy who did the original excavation and promoted it as a tourist attraction was also sloppy in his work.

  19. Ken perhaps you heard this sloppy work quote from modern professionals who tend to put down everybody’s work but their own, particularly those who are dead and gone and not around to defend their reputations. The young Terks try to to build up their own reputations and careers by putting down others older work. King, the Wickliffe owner the did have a problem with sensational newspaper writers from time to time. Chicago and a few other big city papers who went there wrote pretty much what ever they wanted to, including comparisons to Egypt and Babylon and occassionally even mentioning Mecca and Easter Island. The published articles by the Amateur archaeologist owner and TMN Lewis were both not overly sensationalistic as show by the Wisconsin Archaeologis, Tenn. Academy of Science and the Ill. Academy of sciene articles cited in the earlier poster. Did some news reports do some trash talking to sell papers, that doesn’t seem to have changed much. I researched this thinking it might make an interesting book to write. The recent professionals seem to have conviently left out this part of the story which is what I would focus on.

    Typically William S. Webb of Univ. Of KY who had a feude with the owner (secretly Webb wanted to do the very same thing to make a tourist attaction) and he constantly bad mouthed Wickliffe but by his own admission (pedrsonal papers) he never saw the place in person. Historical accounts that I have seen from the time (1930s) when the work was orginally done are rather similar to those in the Wisconsin Archaeology Journal of 1935. The original excavation was done by the Alabams Natural History Museum in 1932 fact not widely published, TMN Lewis Winconsin Archaeologist article published 1933 should convince you the original work was not sloppy, he said it was praise worthy, his second article in KY Progress Magazine was equally praise worthy of the work that was done at Wickliffe.

    1935: “No more efficient example of ex-
    pert excavating of aboriginal remains is to be seen anywhere than at Wickliffe, Kentucky.”

    Following citation on the internet: http://www.archive.org/stream/wisconsinarcheol14wiscrich/wisconsinarcheol14wiscrich_djvu.txt


    Members of the Society are cordially invited to visit when in Ken-
    tucky the excavations of our brother member, Col. Fain W. King, at
    Wickliffe. This aboriginal area, the “Mound Builders’ Tomb” em-
    braces twenty-five acres in the city limits of Wickliffe, on a, natural
    bluff or fortification overlooking the river where the Ohio joins the
    Mississippi. Over the excavations in three of the large mounds on
    this property Colonel King has erected substantial frame buildings to
    which visitors are admitted. In one of these, the Burial Tomb, are
    shown in situ more than one hundred and forty burials of three
    types, “the prone or extended, the bundle or basket and a crematory
    basin containing charred human bones.”

    Accompanying these ancient interments are plain and effigy type
    pottery vessels, chipped flint implements, copper on wood ornaments,
    marine shell ornaments and implements, flake mica, fluorspar orna-
    ments, and lead and hematite ore. A second building encloses a tem-
    ple structure and a third a council house. Excavations in a fourth
    mound were progressing during the past autumn. At that time the
    skeletons of eighteen children had been exposed in this earthwork.

    In the council house mound in wall cases is displayed Colonel
    King’s magnificent and very extensive collection of Middle Mississippi
    Archeological Notes 67

    Valley pottery and stone, shell, bone, clay and metal implements, orna-
    ments and ceremonials for the instruction of the hundreds of visitors,
    many of whom journey for long distances to view this remarkable
    archeological monument.

    In a recent paper printed in the Journal of the Tennessee Academy
    of Sciences, Colonel King says of the archeological excavations at
    Wickliffe: “The purpose and intent is for the preservation of these
    earthworks, the advancement of science and education. These re-
    mains have been willed to the state and will belong to posterity as a
    part of the State Park System.” No more efficient example of ex-
    pert excavating of aboriginal remains is to be seen anywhere than at
    Wickliffe, Kentucky. Visitors to this archeological preserve will find
    the owner a most interesting and hospitable host.

  20. Try reading the 1936 article cited below in “Natural History” magazine for what was actually said at the time (1936 I think) this is not propoganda about the Wickliffe Mounds excavations or they would not have published it in Natural History, it does not jive with the degree of negativity you likely have heard about the Wickliffe excavations that in my opinion is mostly negative propoganda by jealous proffesionals. I don’t think this author was the one who got Wickliffe all wrong, but clearly you can judge for yourself if you bother to read period pieces like this, that serious students of history all must do;

    Butler, Lorine Letcher – 1933 Ancient Buried City of Kentucky: a Recently Discovered State in the Unfoldment of American Civilization, The. Natural History (36). Natural History, New Haven, CT.

    I don’t have a digital copy to give you but you will find a lot of the negative things you may have heard about the Wickliffe excavations just were not true. People then as now often have an axe to grind and their attacks all too often were rooted in personal bias or jealousy. Many Professionals even then thought that the government should own and thus control museum and archaeological work period. ABC was a target because there was no place for private ownership which they viously attached whenever and however got the chance. It was ok to donate your money to the major museums and Academic programs but heaven forbid if you run or own your own museum and hire people from out of state (Alabama) to do archaeology for you in Kentuck.

    1. I’m going to leave the field to you. I have neither the time nor inclination to dig – pardon the pun – into the topic beyond what I did when I posted the original story.

      I would suggest you go after Wikipedia for the information I cited:

      “Amateur and semi-professional excavations first began in the site around 1913 and continued sporadically for several decades. In 1930, Colonel Fain W. King, a businessman from Paducah, Kentucky, began private excavations of the site, intending to turn it into a tourist attraction. In cooperation with his wife, Blanche Busey King, he opened the site for tourists under the name ‘Ancient Buried City.’ The Kings’ venture was highly controversial because they used sensational and misleading advertising, altered the site to make it more visually appealing, and made dubious and exaggerated interpretations of the site. These actions put them directly in opposition to professional archaeologists who studied the site and did not want it disturbed.”

      1. That’s more damning that my offhand comment that it was transitioning from a “tourist trap to a serious site for research and training.”

      2. Wikipedia has a much wider circulation than http://www.capecentralhigh.com.

      I have never been mistaken for a “serious student of history.” If you’ve been reading this blog for any time, you will have heard me say that I commit history only by accident. I HAVE discovered in doing research, that many of the original newspaper stories I wrote three and four decades ago are the only account of some events, so I guess I was writing history on and didn’t know it.

  21. Hopefully we all know better than believe everything written on the internet (not like the blonde girl in the TV commercial who says she is dating a Frenchman she met on the internet, what a hoot) that also means even Wikipedia that is full of opinions and some whoppers occasionally and they get contested over time. I am not a serious historian either but merely researched the Wickliffe Mounds after downloading the poster a couple of years ago that I posted earlier with the permission of the author, he said he would email the poster pdf with pictures to anybody who wanted it for free, it is not for sale anywhere and does not seem to be still available on Wickliffe’s web site where I got it, I am sure you could contact them on how to get it. Contact Frank Bodkin at fmbodkin@insightbb.com. he said he would email it to anyone. I don’t personally know him, never met him but contacted him by phone and emailed and he shared the information I passed on and it is really his research that got me interested in reading the original journal and magazine articles about Wickliffe, something anyone can do from the published sources. It is my opinion that the Wikipedia story comes from the article in the Kentucky Encyclopedia and is a rather biased revisionist modern history with clear errors about the site and ignores much of what the original articles written about the excavation actually said. Case in point is the poster write-up I posted of Mr. Bodkin, those details were all completely left out and give a very different picture of the history. It doesn’t take a historian to see the modern “spin” or recognize a biased account just someone seeking o find the truth on their own, because that’s what I did. The history of the Wickliffe Mounds in Wikipedia just isn’t as fair and balanced as you would expect and hope a good modern history would be, I hope that article will get corrected in the near future, they could start by checking out the information on Mr. Bodkin’s poster like I did.
    I think everyone should agree we owe it to our local history to try to get it right without obvious bias and that is what I am trying to do in a very small way about Wickliffe. Don’t just take my word for it, do something really novel now days and read about it for yourself then draw you own conclusion and don’t rely on someone else’s opinion, even if it is on Wikipedia.

    1. Chris, in the past 38 months, I have made 986 posts consisting of 748,238 words and 7,727 images. The Ancient Buried City accounted for only 805 of those words and 6 photos, two of which were of a postcard picked on when my parents were on their honeymoon. It is NOT nor was it intended to be a definitive look at the burial mounds or archaeology in general.

      I write about what I remember about coming of age in a small town on the Mississippi River in the 1960s. If you’re looking for more than that, look elsewhere.

      You are considerably more interested in the topic than I. If you have issues with Wikipedia (and that’s understandable), address them there.

      As far as “trying to get it right,” all I can offer is my 91-year-old mother’s observation that her stories are better now that there are fewer and fewer people alive who could contradict her.”

      I appreciate your passion and your research, but my interest in this thread has waned. You are welcome to the last word.

  22. The internet can be a curse for spreading a lot of false information and a blessing for allowing free open discussion to post our opinions. So I do understand your waning or growing tired of this thread but debate or controversy should not be viewed so negatively, it is our precious freedom of speech. Thanks for letting me state my opinions and point out what I think has not gotten it’s due, or proper consideration, about the Wickliffe Mounds history. Just as Fain King said “It’s Never To Late To Discovery America” I hope it’s not too late to tell the truth about the Wickliffe Mounds story. I think your blog has given the opportunity to do just that, and I personally thank you for the forum to allow that, there is no where else on the internet that I have found on this topic. Like the XFiles TV show said “Scully the truth is out there” I think blogs like yours although not always obvious actually are helping to find it, strange as that may seem. Much thanks from me, why not just keep it up, you have my vote to do that.

  23. I too concur with Frank’s post (he emailed it to me), I emailed him with your comments and you sounded like you were about to take down this blog. Frank is the one who told me about this blog and we are both of the same opinion that it would be a shame to take it down just because of my posts that challenged the orthodox view of the professionals. Descent is a necessary requirement to have a free and open society, long may it live. Don’t be afraid of healthy debate it just makes us all stronger people. You have my respect and a little sympathy for being asked to defend your remarks, you really have done a pretty good job and have earned my respect. Don’t quit now, and keep up the good work. You are providing an important opportunity, other people/friends email me they have read the blog and have told me so.

    1. Rest easy. I’m not taking the blog down. I still have many, many negatives from the Cape era to scan. I have to admit I was a bit confused because I had a post from Chris and a post from Frank, both from the same ip address. You just cleared it up.

      I enjoy comments from readers. Look at the what reader Keith Robinson contributed to this piece about ghost whistles.

      I have only pulled three comments in the life of the blog and that was when a reader was starting to make personal comments about another reader in a fairly controversial story. We stepped in before the train got too far off the tracks and all was good. I have fairly thick skin, but I won’t allow personal attacks aimed at other individuals.

  24. I thought this was a dead issue… to explain, this kid was never around when Ancient Buried City was BIG and there were billboards on the highway telling about a whole city underground at this place, I was. When you did go in, and I talked with many people and kids in the 50’s and 60’s that did go in and pay to see the place, were only of couple of piles of bones and glass case or two of arrow heads and broken pottery. NO city, except for some cheesy type written pages about a city that once was there…Mr. King bought and dug up the place to make buck and I guess he did for several years, good for him.
    The serious digs that are going on there now are different and I might stop on my next trip to Florida to check them out. What is going on there now is way different for what Ken was writing about and the true nature of the Old Ancient Buried City. The old place was a Tourist Trap of the highest order and it failed most likely because after a while you are no more suckers to fool.

  25. Terry you have really got to get your story straight, you said on Sept 25 you had not seen the Wickliffe Mounds and your parents called it a tourist trap. You have just made highly derogatory comments on hearsay, both ignorant and shameful. The original Wickliffe excavations have published articles in the Wisconson Arcaeoloogist (1933), Tennesse Academy Of Siciece (1933), Illionois Academy of Science (1936 I think), Natural History Magazine (in mid 1930s) (published by the American Museum Of Natural History, New York City). Have you even ever hear of these publications? I feel certain you have never read any of these articles, have you? The original work/excavations were done by the Alabama Natural History Museum, on the University of Alabama Campus, under Walter B. Jones the State Geologist of Alabama who is famous for the work at Moundville and making that a park, and the Field Crew director was David Dejarnette a legend in Southeastern Archaeology history. You have just insulted the work of all those people, and many more. The Wisconsin Archaeologist article was written by TMN Lewis who people refer affectionately as the Father Of Tenn, Archaeology because of nearly 50 years of work at the Archaeology lab at the University of Tenn in Knoxville. He wrote two articles about Wickliffe, visiting often during the excavations an he restored the pottery in the Burial display. There seems to be a lot you really didn’t know. Wikipedia doesn’t tell the whole story and often is opinionated/biased by the points of view of the people who made the submission.

    Utter ignorance just can’t go unchallenged.

    1. Chris,

      OK, you’ve hit my firewall.

      “Utter ignorance just can’t go unchallenged” is over the line. I allow a fair amount of leeway here, but I won’t tolerate attacks on individuals.

      I’ve known Terry since we were in high school together in the 1960s. He projects a persona of a country bumpkin, but (and I hope he’s not listening) he’s far from it.

      You are on the verge of having future posts blocked. Freedom of the press belongs to he who has one, and this one is mine, so I make the rules. You are more than welcome to set up your own blog where you can can sing the praises of the Ancient Buried City to one and all.

  26. Thanks for reining in my comments when uncivil, you are right to do it and I respect that. Ignorance should not go unchallenged. would sound better you have my permission to edit it to that or something similar. I trust you to do the right thing.

    My points are quite valid, and I appreciate the opportunity to civilly respond.

  27. !!!!!!!!!!!! Please don’t post

    Confusion and confession, Frank and I collaborate on our responses from time to time sometime by phone and this time by email. I emailed my recent post reply back to you and he suggested some of the content in the new post, gave me his feedback and then I reedited my email and sent to you under my name. He has had vicious attacks on the internet and would like to remain anonymous on some of the controversial issues. Please don’t post this to the blog. He suggested to add it to my post the ignorance end sentence and he has agreed you should edit out that sentence, just completely drop it.

    1. It’s hard to put the toothpaste back in the tube. As soon as you posted your comment, it went out to everyone who subscribes to comments on this blog.

      Let’s just let the issue die. All of us type things we wish we hadn’t as some time or another. I’ve seen (and typed) much worse.

      As an overall observation, I think one of the things that has resulted in the lack of civility in the world is the ability to post anonymously on media sites. When I worked in the print world, a letter to the editor wouldn’t be printed unless a clerk verified that the writer was real and that they had written the letter. Today, in their quest for hits, they’ll print the most scurrilous garbage without making the writer responsible for his or her words.

      I’m proud to say that I never ducked a byline; my phone number has always been in the phone book, and I sign everything I write. If I won’t stand by my words, I don’t write them. That’s not to say that I can’t be persuaded to change an opinion, but I’ll acknowledge that change.

  28. Terry concerning the use of the term “City” it was considered appropriate because it was already in common use to call a group of Indian Mounds a city, thus the nearby Mound City in Southern Ill. and Mound City a Park Service operated museum in Ohio. Of course Cahokia was considered the largest prehistoric City near current St. Louis. I talked to three of the original crew member of the Alabama Natural History Museum who excavated the first three mounds, and they told me they were already calling Wickliffe a City when they were doing the original work because that’s what they referred to Moundville as a “city” back home in ALA. A former director of the National Park Service wrote a book entitled “Hidden Cities” ( Hidden Cities: The Discovery and Loss of Ancient North American Civilization by Roger G. Kennedy 1996) about how many of the mounds have gone unrecognized as cities a sort of racism that refused to believe Native Americans were capable of building cities or any other important accomplishments.

  29. Terry you might enjoy reading a book that would address the use of the term city entitled:
    Lost Cities of the Ancient Southeast by Mallory McCane O’Connor (Mar 20, 1995

    Here is a synopsis of the book
    From Library Journal
    In 1492, America was not an empty wilderness, ripe for European annexation but rather a land of thriving cultural, religious, and commercial centers with complex societies and millions of inhabitants. O’Connor (Native American Art Studies Assn.) traces the rise, flowering, and decline of more than 20 of these lost centers of Mississippian culture, including Cahokia (Illinois), Etowah and Ocmulgee (Georgia), Calusa (Florida), and Town Creek (North Carolina), from 500 to 1500 A.D. The author’s emphasis is on the art and architecture of Native American peoples, which reveal a highly developed culture destroyed by factors such as European conquest and modern looting. Her spare and lucid text is complemented by excellent photographs by Barbara Gibbs and architectural drawings by William Morgan. Well organized and visually appealing, this work should lead informed lay readers, as well as scholars, to their own discovery of America.
    Jamie S. Hansen, Univ. of South Carolina, Columbia
    Copyright 1995 Reed Business Information, Inc.

  30. Terry just in case you or anyone else that reads the blog doesn’t have the time or interest to go to a library to look-up the contemporary journal and magazine articles on the Wickliffe Mounds, at least scroll up and read the local Missouri news paper article (Southeast Missourian, Thursday Evening, March 22, 1934) I quoted in full (January 9th) and tell me how you can reconcile that with your statements about Wickliife? Is that too much to ask, I don’t think it is. Does what was said in the local newspaper sound interesting to you or worth seeing? Do you think King was lying or trying to dupe just for money the Teacher College professors and students who attended the local lecture and many could travel to Wickliffe to see the excavations for themselves? Would visiting, Moundville Ala, Chuckalissa at Memphis, Cahokia at St. Louis, or the Dixon Mound in Ill. interest you enough or cause you to stop to take a look?

    1. Frank or Chris, whoever you are this time around, I have to admit that responding to your posts on this topic has become an act of masochism on my part, but I can’t help myself.

      You piqued my interest enough to actually go to the Google Missourian Archives to read the March 22, 1934, story.

      Let’s put this in some kind of newspaper perspective. The story ran on Page 5, under a jump of a serial romance column called The Romantic Runaway, which is an indication of how important The Missourian thought the story was. It didn’t even start at the top of the page; it was buried at the bottom above an ad headlined “Good News for Kidney Suffers” touting Foley Pills.

      What stories did the paper rank more important than King’s speech?

      1. Concrete was being poured for a new basement for Mr. and Mrs. Cletus Brooks. (Page 1)
      2. Prison for Life, or Grave for Bandits Favored by St. Louisan, speaking in Cape. (Page 1)
      3. “Don’ts” for Hospital Visitors booklet being distributed by Southeast Missouri Hospital (Page 1)
      That doesn’t include AP stories like snow started falling in Maryville at 7 a.m. and melting as soon as it touched the ground. (Page 1)

      How many blog readers give two hoots and a holler?

      Since the original Buried City story was published, it’s been read 1,031 times by 811 unique readers and ranks #27.

      Putting THAT in perspective, a story about my mother getting a new lawn mower ranks #19.

  31. This belittlement about where the locally covered and written article of a talk at the local got put in the paper is rally a rather silly point to me. I went to the University of Kentucky and we had out of state guests speak at the department on probably at least a monthly basis with a posted schedule of speakers in the department, I took the local paper and I don’t remember any of them getting a write-up of what they said or any mention of them, and some were well know authors. How many speakers at your local college get written up today, is your experience really that different from mine? Speakers were occasionally mentioned in the student paper as announcement of their coming but typically no full write-up of what they said. SO who covered King in the Southeast Missourian, some part time or cub reporter most likely would rarely if ever got front page coverage. Wickliffe got sensational head line grabbing big newspaper coverage when it first opened that was absurdly embarrassing because of Egypt, Babylon, Mecca and Easter Island comparisons in the Chicago, Los Angles, New York and St. Louis comparisons King did not make written by reporters eager to grab headlines, I can get the citations for those, I have read them from all the big papers. The Cape Giradeau reporter is to be commended (would you not agree?) for reporting what King actually said, not the hype the reporter could dream up to grab headlines. King’s local paper coverage almost always was much more accurate and honest than the big city headline grabbing muck rakers. They may have fit in the Wickliife article where ever they had space or a hole shortly before going to press, obviously free coverage that could just as easily get buried or stuck in any back section of the paper. I think a similar story written a couple of years after a new museum/park open would get similar treatment. It amazes me that local sports coverage get large coverage on the front page and all the important news I want to read is buried in the paper. Is your newspaper reading experience really all that different from that? I think the court of public opinion would think you are rather silly to make this point.

    1. The court of public opinion would think I am rather silly to keep jousting with you.

      How many newspapers have you worked for? How many stories have you written? How many pages have you laid out? I was in the ink-slinging business from 1963 until I retired in 2008. I’ve got a pretty good idea of how and what stories are covered, their significance and where they are played.

      As far as comparing it to Egypt, etc., papers in those days were prone to go overboard in their language and descriptions. They were also Babbit-like in their boosterism.

      Let’s summarize our positions: I say the Ancient Buried City was a mildly interesting tourist attraction half a century ago. It is now more appropriately being treated as an important archaeological site that should be preserved.

      Where are we going with this discussion? Is there an end to it? We’ve plowed more ground than King did in the ’30s and the topic is as dead as the bones he dug up and displayed for tourist bucks.

  32. Ken you should find the cited article interesting from the forerunner of Time magazine. This is from Time Magazine’s web site and their original article appeared in Jan 1933. Even the news media itself was a bit shocked at the sensationalism of Chicago Reporter, Robert J. Casey, coverage of the Wickliffe find, Casey gets called out by name and raked over the coals! It was not things King said.

    “Buried News Monday, Jan. 23, 1933
    The Press last week could not decide whether it had at hand a story of the decade or no story at all. What it seemed to think it had was the discovery of a 3,000-year-old civilization in Kentucky. The Chicago Daily News had sent Reporter Robert J. Casey to view some diggings at Wickliffe, Ky. Thence he wired excited reports of “The American equivalent of Tutankhamen’s tomb”; “evidence that a people had mastered the elements of community life and government while Babylon ruled the known world”; “. . . its mystery is one with Angkor and Karkemish. . . .” By every definition of news such a report, if true, should have been splashed across every front page in the land. The Daily News did front page it, but under modest two-column headlines. The rest of the Press, including the New York Times, seemed undecided, gingerly tucked it in inside pages but quoted many of Reporter Casey’s extravagances. The story told how a Paducah, Ky. lumberman named Fain W. King found the burial mounds such as are common in Kentucky and Ohio. In one of them he discovered “1,000 skeletons,” flint arrowheads, bits of metal that may have indicated a traveling and trading people. But the basis for the “3,000-year-old” guess, the delineation of civilization and culture, were obscure. No archaeologist of standing could last week be located to say whether the Wickliffe diggings were a “buried city” or another Indian burial ground.”

    Obviously, sensationalistic press is nothing new. I am a big Fan of Will Rodgers toured his home in the 1960s his “All I know is what I read in the newspapers” probably is true for a lot of people just change that to the internet today. Serious students should never trust a single source to be objective about anything important.

    1. I knew him as Will Rogers, not “Rodgers,” but I guess that’s close enough.

      I kept one of his sayings on my bulletin board at work: “There are three kinds of men. The one that learns by reading. The few who learn by observation. The rest of them have to pee on the electric fence for themselves.”
      – Will Rogers

    2. Guys, can we wrap this up? I can’t see that we’re getting anywhere much beyond where we started. Every time a comment is posted, it triggers an email to everyone who is subscribed to this post. I’m surprising I haven’t had readers unsubscribing to cut off the flood.


  33. My apologies for sloppy typing and spelling and my eyesight has gotten worse trying to read the screen. I bought the DVD for Steamboat Around the Bend movie staring Will Rogers and Irvin Cobb from Paducah (hotel named for him) also humorist like Will, the movie is about the race for the golden antlers. My father saw the movie in the theaters in the 1930s and it was one of his all time favorites. He knew many of the Will Rogers quotes from the newspaper and he took the family to see Will Rogers home/museum in 1966.

    Irvin Cobb was an Indian arrowhead collector as a boy growing up in Paducah and visited Wickliffe in the 1930s (written up in the newspaper) and bought a crystal quartz clear arrowhead (may have been the only one of that material type found at Wickliffe) from Fain King that probably was found at the site and mentioned in one newspaper account. He wrote a check for Blanche King’s book “Under your Feet” and the check was never cashed and was still there to show visitors in the 1960s when I visited the site, I got to see it.

  34. The public can be a harsh critic and praise is something you have to earn. My statements concerning the overly harsh comments about the Wickliffe mounds were defamation, by that I mean the statements were made without adequate research into the truthfulness of the statements. Therefore, I have countered that negativism by citing a local newspaper article, two Academy of Science Articles, Wisconsin Archaeologist Articles, and a Natural History Magazine article to show why the negative comments were not entirely legitimate.

    Last but certainly not least I am citing a News Paper clipping I was sent from an local news column writer (Avis Graves) from Bardwell, KY in the Carlisle County News. Her Wickliffe Story appeared in the Vol. 87 Sept. 3, 1981 page 18 of the Carlisle County News about her recent trip to see the Wicklife Mounds in 1981 when Wickliffe was still privately owned by the Western Baptist Hospital and was operated just like it had in the 1960s-70s, Murray State took over a couple of year later.

    “While my Mississippi visitor, Florrie was here, I took her over to see Ancient Buried City at Wickliffe and were we impressed!!! I had seen it fifty years ago when they had first begun the excavations. I remember my sister-in-law, Blanche (Mrs. Carl Graves) then saying “Oh! I’d like to have that!” while viewing a piece of pottery just brought to light and Mr. King who was having the excavating done, replying: “So would the Smithsonian!” Well this year Bill Henshaw was our guide and a most excellent one. He added much to the prestige of our area, Florrie being already much impressed by the beauty of our locality and the grandeur of our Lakes section.”

    Obviously this 80 something year old lady news writer (now deceased, no relation to me) knew first hand what she was talking about!!! This was a totally unsolicited local bit of news she wrote from her first hand experience and boy did she get it right.

    Now Terry and Ken what disparaging silly comeback have you got to say to that?? Perry Mason rests his case in the court of public opinion.

  35. Naturaly, I concurr with what Frank has said we have exchanged emails for several yeasr since I got his poster, and some of the information I posted earlier.

    We have meant no disrespect for the opinions of others on this by whatwe have said. Both of us from Western Kentucky merely have tried to take up for a local landmark we very much have enjoyed visiting and researhing. We marshaled enough clear evidence to prove we wer just not full of hot air about the validity of the work that had been done at Wickliffe. Those negative statements ared defamation of the work of famous “archaeologists” of their time who are not around to defend themselves and we came to their defense. Know Ken and Terry, you need to shake hands (so to speak) an admit that our side made some good arguments and poked holes in your “cheesy” defense of what you said (oops sorry my bad joke couldn’t resist). Seriously, this is not about winning or loosing anything more than a friendly argument we know that, I am sure you do too. Your side chose not to answer most of our questions by countering with your own comments, but deep down you have got to admit that our side scored some compelling points. Can you at least be big enough to do that one time? Hey I actually thought this was fun and would do it again on some other topic. Do you call any other historical landmarks in the local area “cheesy” ?

  36. One other important point in defense of the Kings work at Wickliffe. Blanche and Fain King’s estimate of the age of the Wickliffe Site was right on target. In Blanche’s book “Under Your Feet” on page 15 is tthis stament about the age of the mound builders in the lower Mississippi Valley:
    “… the American Aboringines in the lower Mississippi Valley drainage basin, with its exotic ceramic, may yet be found to have culminated at the same time as the pubelo developments in New Mexica and Arizsona, about 1200 A.D. and of Maya land about 1000 A.D.”

    Many of the professionals (partiucularly William S. Webb) thought that was too old an estimate and the age was probably closer to only 500 years or less this included Matthew Stirling who wrote in National Geographic that Moundville, Ala and simalr sites probably dated after 1500 AD. Guess who was wrong, you would be right to say many of the leading professionals as shown by the results of Carbon 14 tests, think anyone gave the Kings for having been right all along, nope, no how no way, they had been gone from Wickliffe when C14 came along and would have proved them right on target about their mounds, that dated the same time as the rise or climax at Cahokia near St. Louis. Not bad for a couple of amateurs. Wild theories not at all, alsmost everything they had found was explained by ethnographic analogy to historic Indian Tribes. I have concluded that all most all of the criticism of what they actually said and wrote about Wickliffe is unfounded.

  37. One other important point in defense of the Kings work at Wickliffe. Blanche and Fain King’s estimate of the age of the Wickliffe Site was right on target. In Blanche’s book “Under Your Feet” on page 15 is this statment about the age of the mound builders in the lower Mississippi Valley:
    “… the American Aboringines in the lower Mississippi Valley drainage basin, with its exotic ceramic, may yet be found to have culminated at the same time as the pubelo developments in New Mexico and Arizsona, about 1200 A.D. and of Maya land about 1000 A.D.”

    Many of the professionals (partiucularly William S. Webb) thought that was too old an estimate and the age was probably closer to only 500 years or less this included Matthew Stirling who wrote in National Geographic that Moundville, Ala and simalr sites probably dated after 1500 AD. Guess who was wrong, you would be right to say many of the leading professionals as shown by the results of Carbon 14 tests, think anyone gave the Kings for having been right all along, nope, no how no way, they had been gone from Wickliffe when C14 came along and would have proved them right on target about their mounds, that dated to the same time as the rise or climax at Cahokia near St. Louis. Not bad for a couple of amateurs. Wild theories not at all, almost everything they had found was explained by ethnographic analogy to historic Indian Tribes. I have concluded that all most all of the criticism of what they actually said and wrote about Wickliffe is unfounded.

  38. Comments on this topic are now closed.

    For the first time since I’ve been blogging, I have turned off commenting on a topic. I think this horse has been flogged well beyond any humane limit.

    Anyone who wants to discuss my decision is welcome to email me.

Comments are closed.